Archive for March, 2013

Embracing the Desert Experience wth Resilience

Posted in Uncategorized on March 31, 2013 by citydesert

There can be few virtues more necessary to the Way of the Desert than resilience;
resilient PASTORS
In his review of Justine Allain-Chapman’s “Resilient Pastors: The Role of Adversity in Healing and Growth” (2012), Nick Baines comments:

“One of the remarkable things about the wonderful Olympics 2012 is how the humble champions speak of the journey to the podium. It is easy to hear them speak of “twelve years of training and preparation for this event” without realising that those twelve years were made up of over 4380 days. In some cases every single day involved rigorous dieting and training – come rain, snow or sunshine.

This is not the job of wusses. If many words could be used to describe what is involved in such athletic commitment, one of them might be ‘resilience’. And it is a word deserving of wider reference and application.

In a culture of what I have called elsewhere ‘consumerist narcissism’ (or ‘narcissistic consumerism’?) – in which self-fulfilment justifies any cost – resilience is not needed. And in a Christian church that looks for instant healings and panaceas for every bit of conflict or challenge, resilience is often underplayed. For resilience implies continued struggle, acceptance of adversity, re-direction into altruism….

Moving from a look at the desert as a place of tough encounter, she takes a brief illustrative perspective from the Bible… and then from the Desert Fathers:

“To go through the desert experience involuntarily can be both overwhelming and crushing. To embrace it can prove both constructive and liberating.” (p.54)

Identifying three stages of the desert metaphor which promote resilience – embracing the desert; encountering God and the self; altruistic living and pastoral responsibility – she then explores how these work out when we choose to face up to the struggle and not simply look for a quick resolution to it.”
Justine Allain-Chapman has worked in parish ministry in the Diocese of Southwark, as both curate and Vicar, and is now Vice-Principal of the South East Institute of Theological Education (a course which trains a large number of students for ministry). After studying theology in at King’s College, London, she was head of religious studies in a London secondary school. She trained for ministry in the Church of England at Lincoln Theological College after which she worked in parish ministry as a curate and as a vicar in South London. Justine was a member of the General Synod from 2000 to 2004.
She recently gained a Doctorate in Theology and Ministry from King’s College, London (“From Adversity to Altruism and Beyond: a pastoral theology of resilience”).

For the book see


Sister Veronica Moore, Hermit and Nurse

Posted in Uncategorized on March 31, 2013 by citydesert

Sister Veronica Moore, a County Meath (Ireland) nun who spent forty years working as a nurse in Zambia retired to live as a religious hermit in Mullingar.

Sister Veronica made her profession of vows for the eremitical life in the Cathedral of Christ the King in Mullingar at a ceremony on 1 July 2010 at which Bishop Michael Smith officiated.
veronica moore
Sister Veronica, who grew up in Oldcastle, took vows to live a life of simplicity, solitude and prayer and is to do so in Mullingar. She said the transition from being a busy nurse in Zambia to “doing nothing” would be “relatively easy” because “God has taken over quietly and gently.”

“I really believe that more things are wrought by prayer that this world could even dream of,” she explained.

Sister Veronica is the fourth person in recent years to decide to live as a hermit in the diocese of Meath. She joins Sister Patricia Conway in Multyfarnham and Sister Una Kearney in Moate and Father David Jones from Duleek in Co. Louth.

Contemporary Italian Hermits

Posted in Uncategorized on March 31, 2013 by citydesert

“Laptops but no beards for new hermits in Italy”

Tom Kington in Rome “The Guardian”, Thursday 13 March 2008

They no longer sit cross-legged in caves, on mountain tops or even in bustling city centres, but hermits are making a comeback in Italy after disappearing early in the last century, a study has claimed.

The archetypal long, unkempt beards are also out of style, the study’s author discovered, since the majority of the 150 or so Catholic hermits now holed up in Italy in search of inner peace are women.

Barbara, a painter, and Valentina, a former modern art dealer, were among those interviewed by Isacco Turina, a sociologist at the University of Bologna, who tracked down 37 hermits, 21 of whom were women. Most were well educated and had decided on a life of prayer, penance and seclusion as they hit middle age.
Into the Silence
A new utopia? A distant reality? Forget it. Hermitage might seem a paradox in our self-celebrating society but it is a growing and fascinating phenomenon, instead. Modern hermits don’t indulge in the search for isolation for social or p
The majority were former clergy or missionaries. “The number of women reflects the amount of ex-nuns who have sought out a degree of autonomy in life that they could not find before,” said Turina.

Regarded as precursors of the monastic orders, hermits spread across Europe in the dark ages. The hermitic way almost disappeared a century ago before making a comeback in the 1960s, he said. Formal recognition of hermits was granted by the Vatican in 1983 to those who “devote their life to the praise of God and salvation of the world through a stricter separation from the world”. Today bishops will consecrate new hermits in return for vows of chastity, poverty and obedience.

“Not everyone applies for this licence from the bishop, but if you do, you also need to agree your new prayer regime with him,” said Turina. “You then reduce your contacts with society, although you can meet people for spiritual dialogue.”

Carlo, a psychiatrist turned hermit in Padua, receives 10 visitors a day.

Turina said abandoned churches were often taken over by hermits, with Tuscany a popular destination – although some were happy to live amid the “loneliness” of big cities. Ex-clergy could often bank on support from their diocese, while lay hermits could rely on pensions or handicraft work carried out between prayers.

“Some are equipped with internet, which doesn’t necessarily disqualify you,” said Turina. “It’s like meeting people. You do it within a spiritual framework.”

For the survey:

Hermits and Hermit-Cells

Posted in Uncategorized on March 31, 2013 by citydesert

“Hermits and Hermit-Cells” by the Rev. J. Hudson Barker, B.A., from “The Church Treasury of History, Custom, Folk-Lore, etc.”, edited by William Andrews; London : William Andrews & Co., 1898; pp. 68-96, is available on-line at
hermit cell
“[S]ince nothing dies, but only all things change, all that was great and good in the hermit spirit has but passed on into other forms, for still we find poets of nature and self-denying souls, and even the hermit form itself may phœnix-life arise again out of the ashes of the frivolity and secularism of the age as an overstrained reaction from the past, as it did of old. Who can tell?”

Sister Wendy Beckett, Hermit and Art Historian

Posted in Uncategorized on March 31, 2013 by citydesert

Wendy Beckett (born 25 February 1930), commonly known as just Sister Wendy, is a British hermit and consecrated virgin who is known as an art expert, and who became well known in the 1990s when she presented a series of documentaries for the BBC in which she reflected on the meaning available in various works from throughout the history of art. Beckett was born in the Union of South Africa, then a Dominion in the British Empire, and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland, where her father had studied medicine. In 1946, she entered the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, a congregation of the Religious Sisters dedicated to education. She was sent to England where she completed her novitiate and then studied at St Anne’s College, Oxford where she was awarded a congratulatory first class honours degree in English literature. Outside her academic work, she lived in a convent which maintained the strict code of silence typical in convents prior to the reforms following the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965).

After attending the Notre Dame College of Education (Liverpool) and gaining a teaching diploma in 1954, she returned to South Africa to teach at Notre Dame Convent, a school for girls in Constantia, Cape Town, where she taught English and Latin. Later she moved to Johannesburg where she was appointed the superior of the local convent, while she also lectured at the University of the Witwatersrand. In 1970, health problems forced her to abandon teaching and to return to England.
Arena: Sister Wendy and The Art of the Gospel
At that point, she obtained papal permission to leave her congregation and to become a consecrated virgin. Her former congregation then arranged for her to live under the protection of the Carmelite nuns at their monastery at Quidenham, Norfolk, in the east of England. There she leads a contemplative lifestyle, originally living in a caravan on the grounds, which was later replaced by a mobile home. Besides receiving the Carmelite prioress and a nun who brings her provisions, she dedicates her life solely to solitude and prayer, but allotting two hours of work per day to earn her living. She spent many years translating Medieval Latin scripts before deciding, in 1980, to pursue art, her favourite subject.

Sr Wendy has spent the past 37 years away from the world as a hermit and consecrated virgin, living in a caravan in a copse in the monastery garden of the enclosed Carmelite convent at Quidenham in Norfolk.

see also

A fascinating conversation between Sister Mary and Bill Moyer begins at

Trading Up From Money To Meaning

Posted in Uncategorized on March 29, 2013 by citydesert

Yet another theme possibly influenced, probably indirectly and unconsciously, by the eremitical life.

A very interesting radio program on the ABC:

Should we be aiming to have jobs that provide meaning in our lives, or are they a tool to providing a means to have meaning in other areas of our lives?

As work takes up a greater part of daily life and is a source of extra stressors, more people are opting out of an office job to establish their own projects. But surely we can’t all do that, so what then?

As Aristotle apparently said ‘where the needs of the world and your talents cross, there lies your vocation’.
The program featured Roman Krznaric, a cultural thinker and writer on the art of living. He is a founding faculty member of The School of Life in London, which offers instruction and inspiration on the important questions of everyday life, and advises organisations including Oxfam and the United Nations on using empathy and conversation to create social change. He has been named by The Observer as one of Britain’s leading lifestyle philosophers. He is the author of “The Wonderbox: Curious Histories of How to Live” and “How to Find Fulfilling Work”.

Father William McNamara, Controversial “Earthy Mysticism” Hermit

Posted in Uncategorized on March 29, 2013 by citydesert

William McNamara is one of the most influential spiritual writers and mystics of the 21st century. The founder of the Spiritual Life Institute in Crestone, Colorado and Sligo, Ireland, and the author of more than a dozen books on Christian mysticism, McNamara is an elusive, mysterious, controversial figure who has touched the lives of millions, over more than 50 years as a Catholic priest, through retreats, spiritual conferences, personal counseling, books and tapes…..

After an audience with Pope John XXIII in 1960, Abba William McNamara, received permission to risk founding such an institute of spirituality, a “new wineskin” that is at once a return to primitive Carmelite eremitical life and a creative contemporary response to the needs of what he calls a “waist- high culture” whose contemplative vision has atrophied….

Renowned preacher and author of “The Art of Being Human” (1962), “The Human Adventure” (1974) “Mystical Passion” (1977) and “Earthy Mysticism” (1982), Fr. William celebrated 50 years of priesthood at his Holy Hill Hermitage in Skreen, Co. Sligo, Ireland in July 2001. A second Jubilee was celebrated at Nada Hermitage in Crestone, Colorado October 5-7….
William Mcnamara
In 2001, after celebrating the 50th anniversary of his ordination as a Catholic priest at the community’s fourth foundation in Sligo, Ireland, McNamara collapsed and was rushed to the hospital with massive internal bleeding. He received seven units of blood yet the Irish doctors were unable to stop the bleeding. As a result, McNamara was transferred to a hospital in California where doctors were able to insert a shunt and perform what they termed a minor miracle to keep him alive. They gave him less than two years to live.
earthy mysticism
Two years after McNamara’s prolonged convalescence in the hospital, catastrophe occurred: the spiritual community he founded nearly 40 years earlier began to disintegrate. Factions developed. A new prior took over. Some members, including ordained priests, left the community. McNamara himself resigned as abbot, was allegedly laicized and is no longer publicly associated with the Spiritual Life Institute, which now has only a handful of members (although he still considers himself a member of the order he founded in 1960, the Community of Apostolic Hermits). Long-time members, such as co-founder Mother Tessa Bielecki and Fr. Dave Denny, also left, founding a new “circle of friends,” the Desert Foundation, to maintain the original Carmelite spirit and ideals. At this writing, McNamara himself — known simply as Abba Willie — lives alone as a hermit in a rugged mountain wilderness in southern Oregon.

Now in his mid-80s and afflicted with numerous life-threatening ailments, he is struggling, alone, to build a new foundation to carry on his unique vision of Christian spiritual life.